County Seat: Stanton * County Population: 4,799 (2010 U.S. Census)
The Martin County Courthouse was built in 1975 in a Modern style as designed by Riherd & Huckabee.
The inaugural county capitol was erected in 1886 for some $24,000. The structure was declared unsafe, razed, and replaced in 1908 with a $30,000 building. When the third and final home of county government was constructed for $600,000, the dozen columns from the second courthouse were used to form a gazebo on the town square.
Martin County was created in 1876 and named in honor of Wylie Martin, an early Texas patriot and member of Austin’s Colony. The county seat was originally known as Marienfeld as christened by its German Catholic founders, but was renamed Stanton in 1890 in reference to Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war.
Stanton is punctuated by two signs, one on each side of town, which proclaim “Welcome to STANTON…HOME OF 3000 FRIENDLY PEOPLE AND A FEW OLD SOREHEADS.” As explained by one county judge, “In practice, few old soreheads are to be found in this small West Texas county seat located halfway between Big Spring and Midland. It’s just a small town of a single traffic light and chock-full of friendly people.” Three times a year – the second weekends of April, June and October – an estimated 15,000 visitors from all around assemble in Stanton for Old Sorehead Trade Days featuring about 615 booths representing vendors from all over the Lone Star State and the Southwest. Goods include woodcrafts, wearable art, hand-poured candles, metal art, food courts, antiques, jewelry, collectibles and clothing, just to name a few.
The first building raised in Stanton still stands, the Connell House erected in 1882 as a two-room home for Carmelite priests. The Connell family moved in following their marriage in 1902 and added on to the home to accommodate their eight children. By 1915 the house had five rooms, with more additions made in the 1920s and 1930s. Upon the death of the last Connell daughter in 1990, the house was transferred to the Martin County Historical Museum and can be opened for visitors via special appointment.
The Old Jail also still stands in Martin County. In fact, the cell block of this jail was originally included in the 1885 Martin County Courthouse. When the courthouse was torn down following the 1908 bond election, the cells were retained as the nucleus of the rock jail building. Completed that same year it included living quarters for the sheriff’s family and later served as a library and museum.
Martin County, with about one-half of its approximately 5,000 residents living in Stanton, has other small communities – Lenorah and Tarzan – located in the northern part of the county. All, including Stanton, are farming and ranching communities also supported by oil exploration and production.
Charles T. Blocker